So how do you choose a photographer?
Good photography is an investment, and as such, you should select your photographer carefully. You wouldn’t just hand your money over to a stranger on the street and expect a fantastic financial return, so don’t do the same when it comes to your memories.
While there’s no magic formula for finding the right one, there are a few things you can do to increase the odds of it being a perfect fit.
Decide on a Style
What kind of photos are you looking for? Action shots, in the studio, at your home, formal portraits…the list is nearly endless. If you have a clear idea of the type and look you’re going for, you can immediately get a list of photographers that meet (and don’t meet) those requirements. Some photographers, for example, only shoot in their studio. If you’re hoping to get great photos of your family on the beach, they won’t work. Others may specialise in outside work. Know what you want and go from there.
Consider the Cost
Obviously, your budget is going to factor into your decision, but try not to make it the only factor. As with so much in life, you generally get what you pay for. A cheap photographer may not have the expertise, the equipment or know-how to capture the photos you deserve. Consider the session fee, but also look at the cost of buying prints and high quality digital copies, too.
Think about How You’ll Display
If possible, think about what you plan to do with the photos. Digital copies are a great backup option, and make sharing with friends and family a snap, but they often end up sitting in a folder on your computer or hard drive, lonely and forgotten. Will you have some printed off and framed for your desk? Or mounted and hung on the wall? Once you have a better idea, you can look at the additional services a photographer provides to see if there’s a match. It’s easier (and often cheaper) to go through your photographer to get everything you want, rather than using one for the session itself, and a third-party for the printing and displaying. Choosing how you want to display your photos shouldn’t be an afterthought. A good photographer is invaluable in this regard, as they usually have the skill and knowledge to help you expertly pick the best showcase for your memories – a perfect match for your budget, taste, and home decor.
Do Some Research
Once you have a list of a few possible choices that meet your style, budget, and presentation needs, it’s time to do some specific research. What are people saying about them? Check out testimonials appearing on their website. Read reviews on impartial forums. Are they a member in good standing with local photography and/or business associations? You might also examine their formal credentials…what sort of training have they had? How long have they been working as a photographer? Credentials should be part of the discussion, but some excellent photographers have limited or zero training, while others with amazing credentials might only be mediocre. Look for it, but don’t judge solely on its existence or lack thereof. A reliable place to start is the Australian Institute of Professional Photography and its directory of accredited members all over the country (hint – I’m a member!).
Look at Examples of their Work
By now, you should have a list with a few names left on it. Next, you’ll want to see some of their work. Most photographers include a gallery or archive of recent sessions on their website. Check it out. Do you like the general look of their photos? Do they include a wide range or families, age of children, location, and scenarios? If so, you can safely assume they can handle whatever you throw at them. If not, they might be new to the game. That’s not automatically a deal breaker, but it is worth noting. Do they appeal to you, even if you can’t place your finger on why? These are obviously good signs. Likewise, no matter how much experience or training they have, their pictures might do nothing for you. They’re not bad…they’re just not you. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Move on to the next name on your list.
Talk to Them
Ultimately, when you’re down to only 1-2 candidates, you should reach out to them. Send an email inquiry, or better yet, call them up. Ask a few questions. Get a feel for their personality if you can. You’ll want someone friendly and personable. After all, you need to feel comfortable with them, or your photos run the risk of reflecting that lack of connection. Do they bring some good ideas to the table? Are they open to yours? If you’ve followed the steps to this point, it all comes down to the best “fit”. Who do you most connect with?
Choosing a photographer shouldn’t be laborious, but it does take a little time to do it right. If you do, you’ll end up with fantastic pictures that you’ll treasure for years.
As the WA Professional Family Photographer of the Year for 2014, I’d love to talk with you about your photography needs. Let’s chat.